Fight the Flu. It’s the Right Thing to Do.

Flu-vaccinationThe flu vaccine can be an emotionally charged topic. While medical experts say it’s the single best way to prevent the flu, others question its effectiveness and worry about potential side effects.

So what’s the bottom line?

Influenza kills thousands of people each season—140 children just last year—according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s invisible, highly contagious and often is widespread during the winter months. Yes, the vaccine missed the mark last year after the predicted strains mutated. However, getting vaccinated is still the most effective way to keep your family safe, according to trusted medical experts.

“This becomes a personal topic because of experiences that dictate a lot of how human tendencies are and how we make decisions,” said Memorial Physician Services’ Avinash Viswanathan, MD. “For others, it is about reactions to the vaccine that either they personally have had or other family members have had. But the truth is, exposing the body to a small amount of the inactive virus builds immunity, and that is your best line of defense.”

As winter weather moves in and the likelihood of a seasonal flu outbreak increases, follow this simple list of tips to protect your family.

  • DO vaccinate everyone 6 months or older in your family. It’s not too late. Visit a Memorial Physician Services clinic or any local drugstore.
  • DO wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer after visiting public places.
  • DO stay home if you feel sick or have a fever to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • DON’T buy into common myths. The vaccine will not give you the flu. The vaccine does not protect against colds and stomach bugs. And remember, “stomach flu” is a viral bug that causes diarrhea and vomiting and is not influenza.
  • DON’T believe everything you read online. The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it’s your best line of defense.
  • DON’T decide against the vaccine based on the outcome of last year’s vaccine. Historically, scientists predict the right strains about 80 percent of the time.

The flu is a serious illness. It’s possible to fight it off without any serious complications. It’s also possible it could lead to hospitalization or worse complications. Waiting to find out what group you fall into just isn’t worth the risk.

“Encouraging patients to get vaccinated is not about instilling fear,” Dr. Avi said. “We have to be as prepared and protected as possible. And that means you should be vaccinated.”

Avinash Viswanathan, MD

Avinash Viswanathan, MD, known to his patients as “Dr. Avi,” practices at Memorial Physician Services—Koke Mill. He earned his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica, West Indies, and completed his internal medicine residency at West Penn Allegheny Health System in Pittsburgh. He is board certified in internal medicine, is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Medical Association.